The Newport Bermuda Race is generally considered one of the three great traditional ocean races, along with the Fastnet in England and the Sydney Hobart in Australia. Run for many years by the Cruising Club of America, it does not have a commercial name attached to it, though commercial interests do help with financing and logistics.The race has been run generally every two years since 1906 and this is the 48th race. There will be 160+ competitors, and they started this afternoon- Friday June 15.
The Bermuda Race remains an event primarily for amateur sailors aboard dual purpose racing cruising yachts. The race has recently begun allowing modern movable ballast boats to compete in an open division, and has a growing doublehanded devision as well as a cruising division. It does not allow multihulls. The two main trophies are the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophy, offered to boats with professional crews and the St. David's Light Trophy which limits participation by sailors classed as professional. Boats are rated under both the IRC and ORR systems using a conversion formula. For many corinthian sailors, winning the St. David's Trophy would be a life's dream.
What makes the Bermuda Race a compelling contest and a great race is the course, which offers a thorough test of offshore sailing skills. The race is long enough to matter and is raced on the open ocean. The course offers a complex problem to solve due to changeable weather and the gulf stream which runs right across the course with meanders and counter currents making for a "chutes and ladders" situation for much of the course. Finally, the destination, a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, offers a sense of accomplishment to those that make it.
This year's weather forecast has a low pressure area moving across the Chesapeake and ending up on top of the gulf stream, then moving SE parallel to the rhumb line. This will put the faster boats in good downwind pressure, and for the biggest and fastest this may hold almost all the way to Bermuda. Predictions are for possible record passages by many, and it looks to be a big boat year. Strong downwind conditions will lessen the importance of the gulf stream, especially for larger and faster boats, but in the Bermuda Race anything can happen, and usually does. With so many competitors there is often a bold move that results in victory..
The race website is here. The race can be tracked here, but be aware that for the first 36 hours the positions of the boats will be delayed by 6 hours. The reason for this is to not advantage those boats that have open sea internet access over those without, but it does make armcahair analysis more difficult